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Academy Street: Funding boost aims to restore shine to iconic Inverness thoroughfare

Academy Street currently has a lacklustre appearance. Picture by Sandy McCook
Academy Street currently has a lacklustre appearance. Picture by Sandy McCook

Businesses in one of the most important shopping and leisure streets in the Highland capital have been offered a funding boost to improve their shopfronts.

Inverness Townscape Heritage Project (ITHP) is offering a 90% grant to help restore original designs, or create new and sympathetic  shopfronts.

It’s a boost to ITHP’s existing grant scheme, which offers 70%, and is designed to help businesses in tough economic times.

ITHP says shop improvement schemes elsewhere in the UK have returned a sense of quality to an area, subsequently increasing economic activity.

Academy Street in the old days. Picture supplied by Inverness Museum and Art Gallery and Am Baile

Billy McKechnie, general manager of Blackfriars Bar, urged other Academy Street businesses to take up the offer.

Blackfriars revamped its interior and exterior last year with help from IHTP, reopening in November.

Mr McKechnie said: “It made a major improvement to the area and beautified that side of the street.

“People who knew it before were astonished and couldn’t believe the difference.

“I would encourage other businesses to do it, as a way of helping them get out of the Covid dilemma.

“The more people that have a good-looking shopfront the more footfall everyone will get.

“It’s a really helpful tool for self-advertising, and businesses could think about doing it over these next months ready for spring.

“We’re optimistic about next year because we know there are plenty of people aiming to come here.”

The funding will be allocated on a first-come-first-served basis.

ITHP chairman councillor Jimmy Gray said: “Academy Street is one of the most historic streets in Inverness and this funding boost gives an opportunity for its businesses to restore the buildings and celebrate their history and unique character.

“I’d encourage tenants and building occupiers to take advantage of this support while it is available and find inspiration from some of our fantastic local sign-writers.”

Inverness BID manager Mike Smith said it was more important than ever to support  city centre businesses.

“I’m delighted to see the Inverness Townscape Heritage Project Shopfront Scheme boosted to help Academy Street building owners and tenants receive up to 90% of funding to improve the look of their buildings.

“Whether it is restoring the traditional signage of your business or creating a shopfront that reflects the history and heritage of the building, I hope this scheme will create a warm welcome for customers visiting Academy Street businesses.”

Those interested in applying for the grant should fill out an application form at www.academystreet.org/grants

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